Officials discuss pretrial program

By Melanie Speicher -

SIDNEY — Year-end statistics and a report on a Sidney Municipal Court program were presented during the Jan. 15 meeting of the Governor’s Community Traffic Safety Network of Shelby County.

Judge Duane Goettemoeller, who hosted the meeting in his courtroom, told the law enforcement officers present “the court has more to do with what you do every day.”

The Municipal Court, he said, heard 2,000 more cases in 2018 than appeared in 2017.

“The officers have honed in on distracted driving,” said Goettemoeller, whose court handled 9,000 cases in 2018. “DUS (driving under suspension) cases are up across the state.”

Melissa Harmon, chief probation officer and Michelle Chamberlin, pretrial services officer, discussed the programs they are involved with through the court system.

“With the pretrial program, we get the offender to the services they need right away,” said Harmon. “Our jail saw 3,000 offenders last year, A lot of them didn’t need to be incarcerated with 28 percent of them bonding out.”

Chamberlin said she visits the jail each morning to meet with the offenders. She determines what areas of the person’s life needs attention.

“I use an assessment tool,” she said. The tool includes where the person is living, are they employed, do they have drug or alcohol issues.

If the person is low risk, they might be released on an OR bond or a reduced bond. A person in jail for a DUI might be released with a monitor on their body so they remain sober.

“Then I link them to different services,” said Chamberlin. “Then I monitor them throughout their case.”

The person, she said, is considered low risk if they are employed and have a good support system.

“But there’s a drug epidemic that we’re working with,” she said. “I link them with services so they can get through the court process with support.”

The pretrial program is funded by a Justice Department Reinvestment grant.

Sidney Fire Chief Brad Jones couldn’t contain his excitement when talking about the new substation which will be building on Wapakoneta Avenue.

“This is an opportunity not only for a fork in the road, but for a new road map for the next 50 years,” said Jones of the project. “I’m super excited about it.”

Jones discussed the controlled burn projects which were conducted in conjunction with Underwriter Laboratories. he said the hard data from the project isn’t back yet, but some of the things they learned during the training have already been implemented by the department.

“Twelve departments participated in the exercise,” said Jones. Landbank purchased houses were used by the departments for the training exercises.

“Repetition is good,” said Jones. “You get yourself ready for any emergency.”

A second generation fire chief, Jones said that “things done 20 years ago we wouldn’t be doing today. The quicker you get the water on the fire, the better.”

The new substation, he said, will “expand our footprint into the future. It will become a regional training center.

“It’s refreshing that Dr.Link saved lives in the community. and then his family would sell it to use for the future,” said Jones.

In reviewing his yearly stats, ones said the department responded to 1,024 incident calls in 2018 which included 15 fires; 769 medical calls; 34 hazardous condition (no fire); 84 service calls; 66 good intent calls; and 50 false alarms.

Sidney Police Chief Will Balling said his department responded to 32,466 calls for service in 2018. There were 538 crashes in the city; 89 operating a vehicle while intoxicated; 1,842 citations; and 6,763 traffic stops.

Ohio Highway Patrol Piqua Post Commander Lt. Joe Gephart reported there were eight fatal crashes in Shelby County in 2018. Three were OVI related and three were commercial related.

Troopers had 3,419 enforcement stops in 2019, along with 222 crash investigations. There were 1,658 motorist assists, 29 felony arrests and 102 OVI enforcements, along with 102 drug violations.

The city, county and ODOT are preparing for work on the Fair Road bridge by Sidney Middle School. Work is expected to begin around March 1 and conclude in November 2019.

Shelby County Engineer Bob Geuy said he’s been meeting with school officials on how students and parents will be able to access the school during construction. During phase 1, he said, the sidewalks will be available. During phase 2, walking will be a concern to officials.

“They’ll have to walk on the west side of the structure,” said Geuy. “That’s not a good way for the kids to walk. We’ll be maintaining traffic but it’s going to be an issue for everyone.”

Geuy said he’s still trying to get an answer from CSX Railroad on when the Hardin Wapakoneta Road bridge will be completed.

The group’s next meeting will be April 16.

By Melanie Speicher

Reach the writer at 937-328-4822.

Reach the writer at 937-328-4822.